SIUC applauded for environmental efforts

By Gus Bode

‘Bioneers’ attempt to localize worldwide environmental issues

The University has saved more than $4 million in electricity costs by renovating the campus to make it more environmentally friendly, said Phil Gatton, director of the Physical Plant.

During a panelist discussion Friday afternoon for the second annual Heartland Bioneers Conference, administrators, faculty and guests discussed ways the University has made the campus “greener” and areas that still need improvement.


The University administration still graded itself with a “B,” signifying there can be improvement, but also were quick to point out its many projects including:adopting a recycling program, updating light fixtures and using alternative energy forms.

“We’re proud of that effort and I want to support that,” said Provost John Dunn, a panelist. “I still think we can do much better here. We’ve got to remind one another and be very conscious.”

The Heartland Bioneers Conference was held in connection with the 16th annual national Bioneers conference. A live broadcast was fed from San Rafael, Calif., to the Student Center Auditorium. The audience clapped and cheered as a satellite image and booming voice more than 2,000 miles away crackled on the Student Center Auditorium’s screen Friday morning.

Kris Schachel, the conference’s coordinator, said its main goal was to bring the community together for discussion on the future of the planet. She said conferences like Bioneers are easily confused with radical environmental movements. Bioneers, she said, offer solutions to problems and ideas to help fix them.

“There are critical problems with the way the world is now,” Schachel said. “There’s a different sense of hope shared among the people who know. One of the main drives in putting this together is to restart the discussion here.”

She said the group also is hoping to localize wider environmental issues, such as global warming and energy conservation. Attendees participated in panel discussions involving the city and the University. Audience members also partook in several workshops where they learned about subjects ranging from grant writing to organic food.

The satellite plenary presentations featured biologists and ecologists from all over the world. One speaker, Janine Benyus, explained new technological ideas that mimic nature. One example was a humpback whale’s fins, which naturally have bumps to prevent drag in the water. When bumps were added to fins of airplanes, they became 32 percent more efficient.


The Bioneers conference started in 1990 as a way to connect communities and share information and solutions about global environmental concerns. The conference has branched to 17 cities in the nation and Canada via satellite.

On Friday, the panelist discussion on “the greening of SIUC” was what Schachel called one of the highlights of the weekend.

Many students said they were surprised about the efforts the University is making to conserve energy and resources on campus. Gatton’s presentation included several projects and renovations the University has worked on recently.

SIUC made its first step toward environmental sustainability by being the first university in the state to sign the Tallories Declaration in 1999. The signing enforced the University’s commitment to environmental issues by making them a top priority.

The Physical Plant recently updated buildings with new compact fluorescent lighting and put motion sensors on vending machines to prevent them from running when not in use. The plant also is looking into alternative energy forms, such as biodiesel and natural, renewable gas.

The audience also commended the University for its recent compost project, which uses worms to convert 1,000 pounds of daily food waste from residence dining halls into fertilizer.

John Arnold, a senior from Rock Island studying plant and soil sciences, said he thinks the University should do more to increase awareness about its work.

“I was a little unaware of some of the things that we’re doing,” Arnold said.

Reporter Julie Engler can be reached at [email protected]